On March 3, Penticton city staff presented the reality of vandalism, loitering, breaking and entering, squatting, drug use and theft that is taking place in public washrooms and similar facilities across the city.
The city’s director of recreation and culture, Bergje Kozak, voiced the city’s concerns regarding the safety and security of public washroom facilities at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Kozak says city staff regularly observe vandalism, squatting, and general destruction in public facilities. The goal of the report was to give councillors an idea of what staff sees on a day-to-day basis.
Okanagan Lake Park sees the most damage of all public facilities, according to Kozak. The city has been forced to weld steel bars onto the locked washroom windows at the park to keep people from breaking in. She further explained that squatting and general uncleanly and unsanitary conditions are rampant in the park washrooms.
Drug paraphernalia and other belongings that have been left behind are often found by city staff in the washrooms during their regular checks, which means the public is just as likely to walk into these conditions.
“The general public doesn’t know what to do when they walk into a facility like this,” said Kozak.
Coun. Jake Kimberley was quick to admit that he’s noticed the problem himself. “I’ve tried to go through there and truthfully I’ve had to turn around and walk back. It’s been that disgusting,” said Kimberley of the breezeway in the 200-block. Kimberley suggested a gate be added to the breezeway at night.
Mayor John Vassilaki was against the idea of blocking the breezeway as he believes allowing citizens to walk through the breezeway rather than be forced into a nearby alley helps to keep them safe.
Kimberley also suggested that the city replace porcelain toilet bowls with stainless steel ones to prevent vandalism. This has already been done at the 200 Block washroom and has prevented the destruction of the toilets but is very expensive, said Kozak, who also noted the issue is not unique to Penticton, she said every municipality in the valley is faced with similar issues.
Council unanimously voted in favour of receiving the city’s report. City staff plan to return to council with some possible solutions in the near future.